Although there are vast differences between social work in acute, long-term care and hospice settings, there is a common thread: social workers have a passion for people and an ability to empower others from birth to end of life.
Acute Care; Medicine
“Health is so much more than just a physical illness,” says Jill, who has been a social worker for more than 10 years. “There are so many psychosocial determinants that affect your overall well-being.”
In acute care, social workers enhance treatment plans, speed up discharge and set up success after hospitalization when people are back at home.
Social workers are not medically trained, which helps build rapport with the patients. “We’re strong advocates who help families navigate the system and deal with the burdens of hospitalization,” says Jill.
Tracey, Jill’s colleague, who has been in the field for more than 24 years, says, “We’re in such a rush in society; the gift of our role is that we will patiently take the time to listen to someone.”
Social workers are able to develop trust with patients because they are genuinely concerned about them and their well-being. After hospitalization, patients often come back to visit Tracey and Jill to show them that they have reclaimed their health and quality of life.
A few years ago, Tracey supported a young mother of two in leaving an abusive relationship. One day, they fatefully crossed paths; the mother was so grateful for Tracey’s help and support, she called Tracey her angel.
“Our smallest effort to the largest task enhances patients’ lives a little bit,” says Tracey, “and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Long-Term Care and Hospice
Joyce’s social work career began in a maternity ward in India nearly 30 years ago. When she started working in long-term care in Canada, she found that her social work skills were useful even in a different culture and social system. “It was quite enlightening,” says Joyce. “The same social work principles and values apply everywhere because we work with people.”
Joyce focuses on helping her residents, patients and their loved ones access resources to solve problems or concerns in a wide range of areas such as decision-making, income, issues related to placement, accommodation, caregiver stress and more. She knows the importance of having a good knowledge base of current resources and processes, which is vital to the work she does with her clients.
To Joyce, long-term care and hospice are special settings where families and friends can create quality time with their loved ones because they are relieved of some of the caregiver responsibility.
“It’s a privilege and honour to work in long-term care and hospice, and to provide my services in the final years, months or days of someone’s life,” says Joyce. “To walk with them during that time is really precious and almost sacred.”
Hospice and Long-Term Care
When Kim was in the seventh grade, she saw a boy with Down syndrome being teased. Without hesitation, she ran over to protect him from the bullies, saying, “Quit picking on him!” until they stopped. From an early age, she has had a natural gift for helping people.
Kim has worked with vulnerable populations for more than 24 years, including advocating for hospice patients. She has a background in building palliative care programs and teams for several long-term care sites. Kim knows everyone by name and keeps the care team focused on the whole person rather than just their medical conditions, which can be difficult in a healthcare setting. “Who are these people outside of their illness or disease?” asks Kim. “I want to make sure we remember who they are, what their story is and what their journey has been.”
Throughout the hospice or palliative process, ongoing support for patients and families is crucial. Kim counsels people regarding how they feel about their decisions at the end of their lives and consoles families or staff who feel bereavement, grief and loss. “There is so much passing of people, and for some, that’s fairly new,” says Kim. “They make connections and establish relationships with these people; it’s important to provide resources and support so that families and staff don’t feel left behind.”
With a challenging career like social work, Kim says you have to know yourself and notes that self-care strategies can be used to relieve stress and ensure inner peace.
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